[development] New Themes for New Drupal

Hannes Lilljequist hannes at perrito.se
Tue Aug 29 22:55:22 UTC 2006

> On the other hand, what would help A LOT is if someone with a  
> "design eye" would point out specific places in the themes where  
> there are problems and, where possible, suggest alternatives

I'll speak up since I'm a designer as well as a developer (and an end  
user), and since I find it important that the core themes are  
brilliant. I took a quick look at the themes before and had kind of a  
bad feeling about some of it. So I tried to nail down some the  
individual problems (as I see them). I'm trying to be pragmatic here  
by commenting on Jeff's work, rather than trying to describe my own  
perfect dream theme.

First, let me just give an overall "Good work"! I know this is work  
in progress and that some of these may be obvious points that you're  
already aware of.
I've only looked at the front pages, so I won't comment on forms,  
admin stuff etc. Oh, and I've been reviewing the themes using Safari/ 

- General comment: If what we're looking for is eye-candy, something  
that makes people think great things about Drupal, then I don't think  
Zen (the original) really does it. Beach and Drop however seem to  
have a potential to become attractive and solid default themes. On  
the other hand, Zen feels very functional and might attract people  
who prefer those qualities. It would probably make a good admin theme.
A general feeling though is that there is some unnecessary complexity  
sometimes. Too many colors, borders, icons etc. Maybe too little  
whitespace. OK, I'll try to be more specific.

- Body text: I think the text size is too big in Zen. Beach is  
better. Drops is even better since I (and I think people in general)  
find Verdana more friendly than Arial. How about using Trebuchet MS  
for one of the themes, maybe just for headings?
Line-height (="leading") is far too low in Zen and Beach and too big  
in Drops. Somewhere in between should be great.

- Headings: Way too large in Zen. Beach looks OK but in Drops they're  
a bit too big. The underlines in linked headings seem a bit too  
striking although in drops-big they are more subtle which is good.  
Drops-small has capital letters which is kind of cool but I think  
they'd have to be smaller so they don't dominate the page completely.

- Info text etc: I agree with an earlier poster that the node links/ 
publication info should not use a serif font when the body text is  
sans-serif. Try Georgia for the body text in, say, Drops, but make  
the links sans-serif. They are way too big in Zen (I think there's a  
pattern here!) and I'd make them a tiny bit smaller in Beach as well.

- Icons: In "Recent blog posts", "Active forum topics" and "Who's  
new" the icons seem more or less superfluous to me. They don't tell  
me anything about the individual links. Especially the node icons are  
too striking in this context I think. The user icons seem like the  
most justified of these three.
Another thing about icons is I think they should be as color neutral  
as possible to make them blend together nicely and work well with  
different color schemes. Or they could all follow a specific color  
scheme - that looks great but it makes them less reusable.

- Blocks: I like the way the're done in Drops (both versions).  
They're kind of nice in Beach as well without borders, but they might  
need more whitespace between them. And smaller headings.
I'm not so sure about Zen's blocks. There seem to be too many squares  
and lines everywhere. Look at the mission statement - there are no  
borders at all, and I think that looks great! As an example of the  
opposite, if you move your eye from within a block to the content  
column you'll cross two lines AND move from gray to white background.  
Is that necessary? I think the sidebars would look better without the  
block borders. Maybe use only horizontal borders between the blocks?
In Beach the text within blocks should be made smaller so that it's  
easier to distinguish between blocks and the body text on the page.  
That's a general rule of thumb I guess; block text should be smaller  
than the body text IMO.

- Colors: Drops looks good in general, Beach even more so - if we  
fade the yellow background a bit.
Zen. I think light grays are nice, especially in an admin theme. But  
I'd go for a darker header - maybe blue with white text like in the  
other themes.
Zen-fixed. I don't like the purple background. How about white or  
light blue?

- It seems silly to provide both drops-big and drops-small since  
they're so similar. The main difference is the header image which  
will often get replaced anyway. By the way, I'm not crazy about the  
rounded box in the header. I think it has to do with it being at the  
same time semi-light on the dark header and semi-dark on the white  
background. I think I'd like it to be either dark or light - or  
replace it with another solution.

- Drops has a too narrow middle column. I suggest you disable the  
right column.

- Fixed vs. Fluid: I think it's obvious from the discussion that we  
should provide both in core. I prefer fixed since it gives me as a  
themer control over the proportions between the different elements on  
the page. But I'm fine with fluid as a default if that is the  
majority's opinion.

- Bonus tip: Include 'Bitstream Vera Sans' with Verdana, 'Bitstream  
Vera Serif' with Georgia and 'Bitstream Vera Mono' (I think that's  
it) with Courier - if you haven't already done so. For all the brave  
Linux users.

Well, I could go on about this forever... I have to stop for now, but  
I'd be happy to review any new versions you guys make. Hope you found  
some of this useful.

/Hannes Lilljequist - zoo33

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